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Hidden Costs of Kindergarten

Two weeks of summer left and our five year old starts kindergarten. I used to laugh at those parents who got choked up when their kids started school, but I get it, and while I haven’t shed any tears, there is a little tug in the heart because she is growing up and becoming more independent. Sadly, I had to go back to work when she was six months old. For the first three years of her life, we paid $500 a a month to a private sitter during the school year. My husband is a teacher, so he’s home in the summer. At three years old, she started full day preschool to the tune of $385 per month, lunch included. I realize that day care costs in a rural area are much less than in the city, but it was still a big montly expense. Starting public school should be like gettting a raise, right? Well, maybe not. We’ve been discovering the hidden costs of kindergarten.

Full Day Tuition

In Colorado, the state only covers half day kindergarten. (Is it any wonder we are getting left behind by all the other developed nations who start learning Calculus in first grade?) If you want your child to stay for a full school day, that’s $100 per month. Since she has been in full day preschool for two years, it would seem like a step backwards to do a half day, and we’d still have to pay someone to watch her in the afternoons. Also, Wednesdays are early release days, meaning the kids leave at 2PM and the teachers stay for staff training. Students can stay for an after school program for $5 a day. At least until the end of 2012, husband and I will both be working. This program is a good option, total $20 per month. 


This is really hard to say because my husband teaches there, but our school district is really bad. The graduation rate is only 60%. I do believe if you are motivated and have parental envolvement, you will do fine in school. However,  I do worry about all the ones who aren’t doing fine, and the resources it takes to deal with them, so we are sending our daughter out of district to a better school. We are less than a mile from the boundary, so we could catch the bus three minutes from our house. The other option is to drive her, which is 12 miles round trip. At twice a day, five days a week, that is about 8 gallons of gas per month at $3.50 a gallon if prices don’t go up, so $28 per month to drive her to school. If we use the bus, the cost would be negligible because the bus stop would be on the way to work. I’m having visions of the big 16 year old 7th grader who steals all the little kids lunches on the bus. I’m sure I’m just being over protective, but I don’t know if I can do it, at least not at the beginning of the school year. I could possibly find a carpool option, but currently everyone I know who is driving lives further away than us, so picking  up on my day would be about the same distance as just driving from our house  every day. Maybe I’ll meet some new parents to carpool with when school starts.


This one is kind of a no brainer. School lunch is $1.60 a day. If we buy lunch 20 school days a month, that’s $32. I don’t think I could make a healthy lunch for this amount. The school district we will be attending started a local food program a few years ago. They buy as much as they can from local farmers and ranchers, and the school has a garden that is used for a salad bar lunch once a week. They still have hot dogs and cheeseburgers, but for school lunch, it’s pretty good, no pink slime and particle chicken nuggets. We may pack a lunch on occasion, but we’ll be eating in the cafeteria most days.

School Supplies

For the first time ever, we got a school supply list. I feel like such a grown up! We already got the backpack for $8. I can get the rest of the things for around $10. We also have to bring a healthy snack to share with the class once a month. I’m not quite sure what this entails, but snacks for 23 kids, maybe $8? If you average that out over the school year, that’s $10 per month.

I’m sure there are many other expenses that I am not aware of. There’s PTA, pickles and popcorn Friday, field trips, and many other things I’ll just have to learn as we go, but known expenses are going to be about $190 per month. We are still getting about a $200 per month raise. Maybe I can afford ballet lessons!

What hidden school costs have you encountered? Did you get your lunch stolen on the bus? I’m a novice, you gotta let me know!



About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I did half day Kindergarten and turned out fine :p It does seem like 5 year olds should be able to handle full day, though. Which countries start calculus in 1st grade?!

    • Well probably none, but we did have some friends how moved to teach in Korea and their son had just finished Kindergarten here at grade level. Their first grade was like being in 3rd or 4th grade here. I also think we are one of the few developed nations that doesn’t start a second language in Kindergarten. I get impatient with the education system in our area and state sometimes, but I guess it’s not too bad.

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